For the first time, Google acknowledged that sales of Nexus devices are down, in their Q1 2015 financial earnings. Typically, Google says nothing, not even hints about how the Nexus program is doing. However, this time around it was different. Google’s CFO Patrick Pichette stated during the earnings call that they’ve seen a decline in Nexus sales. Kinda interesting considering it took months to even pick one up. Because they were selling out so fast.
The Nexus program was doing so well under the Nexus 4, and Nexus 5. Or so we think it was. But there’s a few reasons as to why the Nexus has seen decline this year, and the biggest one is the price. The Nexus 5 was $399 for 32GB of storage. While the Nexus 6 was $649 for 32GB of storage. Almost double in price. That’s a tough sell for anyone, unless you’re Apple. If someone wanted to pay $649 for a smartphone, they’d buy a HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6 or even the upcoming LG G4. For a lot of people, the Nexus was a “cheap” device that they could get and put on a prepaid plan for about $30. But with the Nexus 6, “cheap” was not in the cards.
Then there’s the whole 6-inch display thing. We know people like big phones. Just look at how well phablets have been selling lately. But a 6-inch smartphone is just too big. What Google and Motorola should have done was offered two Nexus smartphones. One that was 6-inches (because a ton of people do love the size), and one that’s a bit smaller, around 5.1 or 5.2 inches. For those that are like me and would want a smaller smartphone. Choice. That’s what Android users are used too, so it would have been a good move by Google and Motorola.
Let’s not forget the whole “bad battery life and crappy camera” that every Nexus has. The Nexus 6 suffers from those as well. Not as bad as previous Nexus devices, but it’s still not great when compared to other flagships on the market, that are priced at the same price. Motorola used a Sony 20.7MP sensor in the Droid Turbo, which came out at the same time as the Nexus 6, but Nexus 6 decided to stick to a 13MP sensor.
However, the Nexus 6 isn’t the only Nexus product this year, there’s also the Nexus 9 and Nexus Player. The Nexus 9 had a few problems early, mostly to do with early production units. But to replace the Nexus 7 which was $229, with a Nexus 9 that starts at $399 for the same amount of storage, that’s another tough sell. While the Nexus 9 is good for gaming, thanks to the NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor inside, NVIDIA does have their SHIELD tablet that is priced at $299. Making the Nexus 9 look pretty pricey. The Nexus Player had a few bugs when it first launched as well, which is to be expected seeing as Android TV is a brand new product. But for many, it was hard to justify buying a Nexus Player when they had a Chromecast that did pretty much the same thing for $35 vs the Nexus Player at $99.
Availability. Another sore spot for the Nexus program. Pretty much since its inception, the Nexus program has always had availability issues. Anyone remember that 12-week shipping estimate on the Nexus 4? Yeah, that was pretty bad. Motorola and Google were basically doing flash sales last fall for the Nexus 6. Which is something that works well in China but not the US. Every Wednesday, they’d put the Nexus 6 up for sale, and it’d be sold out within a few minutes. Causing a lot of people that wanted one, to look elsewhere for a new smartphone.
Google can do a few things to improve the Nexus program this year. Let’s get the pricing back in line. Get it back to selling at-cost, instead of what the carriers want to sell it for. Let’s also make sure we have plenty of Nexus devices available. If you need to, do pre-orders. It’s a great way to get an idea of how many devices you’re likely to sell. Just please don’t use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 in this year’s Nexus.